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Substance Abuse is Down, E-Cigarette Use Is Up Among Alexandria

(Updated 12/13) The results are in for the Department of Community and Human Services’ five-year study of the well-being of Alexandria’s children.

While much of the Children and Youth Master Plan’s five-year report showed improvement, there were several areas where the situation worsened, including abuse of e-cigarettes.

In nearly every health-related standard, scores were improved when compared to the start of the study.

  • Teen pregnancy rate decreased 35%
  • The infant mortality rate decreased by 3.1%
  • Pregnant mothers receiving adequate prenatal care increased by 17%
  • Abuse and neglect investigations declined by 50%
  • Substance abuse rates decreased except for e-cigarettes
  • Participation in leadership and mentoring programs increased by 26%

While substance abuse declined overall, e-cigarette use increased by 60% over the course of the study.

In academic fields, there were some gains but also several areas where scores fell. For Kindergarten Readiness:

  • Children meeting reading expectations decreased 10% and children meeting math expectations decreased by 7%.
  • Children meeting social-emotional expectations increased by 5% and children who self-regulated their emotions and behavior increased by 2%.
  • Pre-K participation rates increased by 7%.

The plan noted that many of the kindergarten readiness gaps still exist along racial lines. While black students were reported as having the same kindergarten readiness levels as white and Asian students, the report said Hispanic kindergarten students suffer from an achievement gap at the earliest grade levels.

For the Standards of Learning (SOL) testing, reading increased by 5% and writing increased by 1%, but math scores decreased by 5%. Like with kindergarten scores, the report said there was a substantial achievement gap between white and Asian students when compared with black and Hispanic student scores.

“White and Asian students tend to outperform black and Hispanic students in terms of SOL pass rates, average SAT scores and on-time graduation rates,” the report said. “Gaps between white and Hispanic and English learner students’ SOL pass rates and on-time graduation rates have widened.”

The college and career readiness field also showed some substantially lower scores.

  • On-time graduation rates decreased by 4%
  • Dropout rate increased by 11%
  • Youth unemployment increased by 44% among 16-19-year-olds but decreased by 20% for 20-24-year-olds

The plan included suggestions for improving the areas where Alexandria’s scores declined, many of which focus on partner organizations that can help coordinate on building better curriculums and education frameworks.

“No single entity has the resources or authority to bring about the improvements envisioned,” the study said. “Systems change is difficult to achieve in a climate of diminished financial resources and urgent need, so efforts must be focused and cumulative in their impact.”

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